By Simon K. Turibamwe
It’s always hard for the minority to rule the majority but only the Basongora, one of the minority tribes in Kasese have proven that they can rule over everyone in the district challenging the Rwenzururu establishment whose leadership and affiliations are on probation majority saying its agenda isn’t clearly understood.
In 2009 when the Government of Uganda accepted to officially recognize the Rwenzururu movement as a cultural institution or Kingdom, the Basongora who says are the indigenous of Kasese accepted and supported the idea. Much as the Toro Kingdom didn’t agree with the central government on Rwenzururu recognition at the time, the Basongora and Banyabindi who were still claimed by Toro to be her subjects contributed towards the occasion to grace the function that show King Mumbere being crowned as King on the 19th day of October 2009 at Kilembe Mines Golf Club.
After the recognition of the Rwenzururu Kingdom which originally was to accommodate Bakonzo and Bamba then other tribes in the districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo, the King did not appoint any none Mukonzo on his cabinet a move that sparked talks of discrimination from day one.
As years went on, these other tribes including Bamba, Babwisi, and vanoma in Bundibugyo district, Basongora and Banyabindi in Kasese district started moves to have their own Kingdoms established and publicly announced that they are not part and partial of Rwenzururu anymore.
On May 13th, 2012, the Basongora pronounced themselves and later on July 1st, 2012 crowned their own Bwebale Ivan their king with the title of Rutakirwa and gave name to him after one of the Busongora’s great king Rwiigi the fourth.
Much as the government officials never surfaced at the coronation of the Busongora Kingdom, President Museveni was present for the coronation of the Omudhingiya wa Bwamba Lt. Col Martin Kamya who rules over all none Konzo tribes in Bundibugyo district.
Save for Obudhingyiya bwa Bwamba in Bundibugyo districts, Rwenzururu Kingdom and its functionaries have been opposed to establishment of Banyabindi and Basongora Kingdoms saying that there can’t be two Kingdoms within one area. The Rwenzururu looked at this as a creation of a kingdom within a Kingdom.
With all the resistance from Rwenzururu, the Basongora went on to perform cultural roles on grounds that their culture and language is not similar to those of Rwenzururu.
Reasons for Busongora Kingdom’s Existence
Having exhibited seriousness within their territory and why they are not Rwenzururu, below are the reasons both government and individuals have decided to support the existence of Busongora Kingdom. Despite having the richest Kingdom on this earth planet the Basongora says they better have no kingdom than have a kingdom that is not developing and based on this background using the constitution they have made sure that any one not developmental will never be their ruler.
The Basongora with the help of reigning King Ndahura II Kashagama managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their Kingdom existed 5000 years ago and only disappeared for the last 100 years after it was conquered by the Britsish to pave way for the Toro Kingdom that was seceding from Bunyoro with the help of Capt. Lugard.
The Basongora presented lists of their former Kings, their origin and where they were buried in Uganda and the period they reigned which has also proved that all Kingdoms in Uganda and some parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi originated from Busongora a fact that it’s older than any other Kingdom in East and West Africa. This has been one of the grounds that even professors of history accepted without doubt.
Much as the Basongora are pastoralists like any other group related to the Bachwezi, they have continued to exhibit that their culture is so unique from the rest. While establishing their kingdom which they said were reinstating in 2012, the elders said that they were feeling so sad to see their children in schools being forced to learn the norms of Bakonzo as if they had no own cultural norms and traditions. The Bakonzo who are of the Ndu dialect, have a traditional dance that makes women jump and spread their legs wide while the Basongora who are of the Ntu dialect remains seated while performing traditional folk songs. Though all tribes in Uganda front a drum as the major musical instrument, the Basongora never plays the drum or any other object that makes a noisy sound apart from the Enanga. The Enanga will be played by women seated with their legs folded and covered under their long dresses (suits) while men will stand holding sticks and make moves with their arms wide spread holding sticks.
Still, on culture there was no way Bakonzo or Rwenzururu whose main food is Bundu (cassava flour), sombe (cassava leaves), and Fish would force Basongora whose only favorite is milk and yogurt (Ikyivuguto/amakamo).
The Basongora who equalize their cows to human beings in terms of treatment and respect don’t only stop there but also love the environment because they know that their lives and those of their animals depend on the environment. The Musongora will plead with you to have him punished but not to pollute the environment in any form. The Basongora culture also prohibits hunting or killing female animals for meat while Bakonzo is hunting experts and meat lovers.
They make good warriors while armed with sticks but they are not provocative to open wars against others and they like solving grievances through dialogue. Some elders revealed that the Basongora liked dialogue because they realized that violence is destructive during the days they were at war with foreign armies.
With this, the Basongora said can’t be part of Rwenzururu whose culture is even known by the true Bakonzo which is characterized by violence and forceful means.
The Bukonzo vs Rwenzururu
When King Mumbere’s father and comrades launched the Rwenzururu rebellion or Rwenzururu movement a rebel group that fought the Toro Kingdom accusing Batoro of oppression, marginalization, and discrimination among other tribes, they managed to convince all none Batoro that struggle would benefit them all.
However, after the recognition of Rwenzururu as a Kingdom, the true Bakonzo were the first to question the legality of Rwenzururu as others said that the Kingdom should be called Bukonzo since the area was known as Bukonzo and people called Bakonzo while the Rwenzururu was the group of fighters. Based on this other tribes said would accept working with Bakonzo but not Rwenzururu that had no geographical location and existing people or culture. Before Rwenzururu got recognition some senior citizens had warned the government not to recognize Rwenzururu but Bukonzo because the characteristics of Rwenzururu were not clear and that it would change the identity of Bakonzo to be called Banyarwenzururu something that would have a negative impact on the community.
Minutes after his recognition as King Rutakirwa Rwiigi IV Bwebale at Muhokya Palace, he said he would respect King Mumbere because the government had put him in place but would never respect the functionaries of Rwenzururu.
To provide alternative leadership
To prove that they had an alternative leadership for peace and stability in the Rwenzori sub-region, especially in Kasese which is characterized by unresolved conflicts, the Basongora said must focus only on developmental issues and give no attention to anything that hinders peace or development.
When he assumed the office of the King, King Ndahura II Kashagama asked all his subjects never to engage in anything not developmental if they are to make Busongora a model community. He promised that he would only concentrate on development and not conflict with any member of the society or central government because they needed each other and that only teamwork is the only way to develop.
To show his determination, King Kashagama who assumed office in 2016 has managed to construct his own Palace, develop a Tourism Centre, construct roads, a borehole for safe drinking water, and lobby universities and other learning institutions for scholarships among others for his subjects. The Basongora who were listed by UNESCO to be the most endangered minority ethnic group in the world, are now proud that their identity is back on record not for the bad but for the good.
The Busongora kingdom has also been able to attract investors, partners, and friends from Western countries to support the Kingdom’s developments. With support from donors and the government, the Kingdom is planning to establish a wildlife treatment center, university, and hospital inside the Ikamiro Palace.
Recently the Busongora Kingdom was ranked by cultural experts as the model Kingdom of the 21st Century in terms of cultural diversity development.
Busongora elders who were interviewed by this reporter also revealed that before they thought of reinstating the kingdom. Their priority was to see a united community because the majority of the population that neither belonged to Toro nor Rwenzururu were left in limbo because were not accommodated in any of the Kingdom.
This the Kingdom that accommodates Basongora, Bakingwe, Banyankore, Bakiga, Banyarwanda, Bagabo, Batuku, Batoro, Banyaruguru, and a section of Bakonzo who are opposed to Rwenzururu establishment among other community living in Kasese district.
People who are not Basongora don’t only subscribe to the Kingdom but are also included in the Cabinet and technical team of the kingdom.
Robert Kyomya Kashamura who is the chief advisor of the king revealed that the inclusion of the other tribes in the kingdom was to exhibit their will for co-existence because there is no community that lives in isolation without neighbors. He adds that: “Busongora is the center of all tribes in Uganda and therefore staying or working alone may not solve the community issues. It should also be noted that a kingdom that wants to isolate other people living within is not for development but for other missions I may say subversive but for us, we believe in co-existence.”
Yosam Nyamutare the Kingdom’s prime Minister said that because they wanted to see Busongora provide alternative leadership, they had to be accommodative to whoever is interested to stay or work towards the development of Busongora, and no one is compelled to subscribe to the kingdom of Busongora because the subscription is optional.
Nyamutare further says that instead of compelling people to subscribe to the kingdom, the kingdom has a duty to prove competence in service provision so that people are convinced by the deeds not the word of mouth or force.
“The Kingdom is not politics where people are convinced to support a certain political party but the only way is to show everyone that you are doing the right things and focused on development,” said Nyamutare the Kingdom’s Prime Minister.
King Ndahura II Kashagama, who recently received a certificate of appreciation and a medal for his contribution towards the promotion of Pan-Africanism, has also been telling the Basongora to imitate their ancestors and treat all Africans as one family. The Basongora believe that they are the ones who mothered Africans and therefore all Africans are equal and that no one should be discriminated against on race or tribe but they are Africans.
People power factor
Busongora is the only Kingdom in East and West Africa where people have more powers than the king. To avoid dictation by the King and prime Minister, both the king and prime minister are chosen by the people in an open election.
The Busongora Kingdom constitution gives powers to the council of accession (elders’ council) to choose who should be the king or prime minister. The same council also has got powers to dethrone, remove or punish or force a king to resign if proven guilty of nonperformance. The council of accession is the Alfa and Omega arm in running the Kingdom affairs.
Simon Kagame, the Minister in charge of constitutional affairs revealed that the constitution doesn’t stop at taming the powers of the top leadership but also locks out people who drink alcohol from being nominated or appointed Kings. He adds that this constitution was designed to avoid future problems in the kingdom where individuals would impose themselves on people to claim to be rightful kings.
“We have had scenarios where people are claiming to be right kings to oppose the existing ones and this is because they have no due process of appointing kings but if some are chosen through a due process not even God will dispute his appointment,” said Kagame the Minister for Constitution affairs and institutional development.
Moses Kibwiizi a minister in the Kingdom also said that whoever developed the idea to give powers to the people and not the King deserves an accolade because in most cases leaders use their powers because they are final to mislead people they are supposed to lead.
“Where the King or any leader has the final word can use his powers to give wrong or misleading instructions to the subject and destroy the Kingdom,” Kibwiizi said.